New pocket park with a view in design

By Sara Bruestle | Feb 27, 2013

A new park with a panoramic view of Mukilteo’s waterfront is in the city’s future.

A longtime Mukilteo family recently donated a parcel of land and a 1919 two-story house on the 600 block of 4th Street for use as a city park.

The 0.36-acre parcel has an unobstructed panoramic view of Lighthouse Park and the waterfront.

The owner of the property, Robert Byers, transferred ownership of the land to the city free of charge on the condition that it be used as parkland. Byers said he’d like the community to be able to enjoy the view.

“It would be a neighborhood park to come and sit, relax, maybe eat lunch, and enjoy the view,” said Jeff Nicholson, commissioner of the Park and Arts Commission. “It’s the perfect location to watch the sunset or the sunrise.

“It will be a valuable asset to the community.”

The Parks and Arts Commission is hosting an open house from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, March 2, at Rosehill Community Center to go over plans for the future Byers Family Park. A tour of the Byers property at 601 4th Street starts at 9 a.m.

Those in attendance may contribute ideas and ask questions of the architect and city staff.

“We welcome any citizens to comment,” Nicholson said. “Citizen input is a good thing to have, especially when it comes to a community park.”

The Park and Arts Commission has worked with Byers through the transfer process, and also has been brainstorming park and landscaping ideas. A landscape architect has provided the city a conceptual plan for free that incorporates many of those ideas.

Nicholson estimates it could cost anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 to transform the property into a park. It will cost about $13,000 to demolish the house. No city funds have been budgeted for the project.

With the land, Byers is including a $10,000 donation and the promise of $1,200 a year for on-going maintenance of the site, up to $10,000 more.

Landscape architect Nicolas Morin of Barker Landscape Architects has drawn up a plan that includes a raised boardwalk around the perimeter of the property, a central patio, benches and gardens. The plan includes the removal of some trees to improve the view.

There are also plans to install a bench in memory of the late Jim Byers and a commemorative plaque signed by the Byers family that says, “We all enjoyed the view, we hope you do, too.”

The city has about 10 parks, including the 14.4-acre Lighthouse Park and 24.3-acre 92nd Street Park. Most of the parks are less than an acre and are what many call “postage stamp” or “pocket” parks. The Byers Family Park would be another.

“There are very few parks there, and so if I can contribute to another park for the city, I’ll be glad to do it,” Byers said.

Three generations of the Byers family lived on the site for more than 90 years. Robert Byers, himself, was there for 27 years. Byers, 57, now lives in Texas.

Byers’ grandmother, Janie Byers, bought the vacant lot on Fourth Street in 1919. She ordered the house out of a catalog and had it delivered by railroad car.

“She liked the view,” Byers said. “Everybody likes the view.”

The house and land was passed down from Janie to her son James and his wife Rayoma, and then to their sons James Jr. and Robert. Neither Jim nor Robert had any children of their own to leave it to, so they decided to donate it to the city.

Jim Byers died unexpectedly in 2010 at age 60. He had lived at the house for 55 years.

Jim used to mow the yard around his driveway and trim back the blackberries so that visitors to the Lighthouse Festival could picnic in his yard during the fireworks show.

“We always thought it was a good idea to turn the old place into a park,” Robert Byers said. “We’re the only people that ever lived there. It will be a good memorial to the family.”

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